Free at Noon Flashback: Nightmares on Wax bring living room jams to their midday set

Nightmares on Wax | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN |

Friday afternoon, the downstairs space at World Cafe Live was transformed from its normal stage setup to what appeared to be a halfway cleared out living room. Where a kitchen table may have been before, a massive drum kit took its place. Pioneer CDJ’s and a mixer occupy every square inch of a coffee table placed in front of a leather couch. It’s on the couch we find George Evelyn perched, captaining the CDJ’s, an additional sequencer on his lap, and a MacBook Pro precariously perched atop an amp. With the hard hitting bass, it’s beyond me how the computer didn’t rattle it’s way off the amp.

Evelyn is the man behind the project Nightmares on Wax, originally a duo founded in 1989 in Leeds, England. Nightmares on Wax blends a plethora of genres, sourcing from both sides of the Atlantic and everything in between. With influences ranging from hip-hop, soul, and funk, to dub and reggae, house via Detroit and techno by way of Berlin, the sound that emerges is a beautifully mixed electronic blend, with nods to each element appearing throughout the midday set. Continue reading →


Free at Noon Flashback: L.A. troubadour Jonathan Wilson sets the mood with twists and turns

Jonathan Wilson | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN |

Eclectic singer-songwriter and producer Jonathan Wilson‘s new album Rare Birds is an ambitious undertaking. At 13 tracks strong, many of which lie in the six- to eight-minute range, it was impossible for Wilson to bring all of his new tunes to the World Cafe Live stage for Free at Noon this afternoon, but with the way Wilson and his band filled the room with their soaring sound, you almost wouldn’t have known that what we heard today was only a small sampling of the musician’s catalogue. Continue reading →


Free at Noon Flashback: Lissie previews new tracks and delivers old fan favorites

Lissie | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN |

Taking shelter from the storm downstairs at World Cafe Live, Lissie brought their blend of folk rock and dream pop to Philadelphia on this blustery Friday afternoon. A mix of old favorites and yet to be released tracks, Lissie compiled a career-spanning set, urging new fans to dig back into their back catalogue while also offering up these new songs to satiate long-time fan’s hunger for new material.

Lissie covered the full spectrum of romantic feelings throughout the set, from the blunt “Love Blows” to the hopeful “Best Day,” and on “Blood & Muscle,” where Lissie described the ideal romantic love. On “Blood & Muscle” Lissie stripped down the sounds to let her vocals shine, where, instrumentally, the piano intro lead the way throughout the ballad. On the track, Lissie emotionally described the perfect form of love as “real and warm and alive, and not just in my mind.” Continue reading →


Free at Noon Flashback: Hardwork Movement puts on for their city

Hardwork Movement | photo by Ashley Gellman-LaLima for WXPN

Remember last summer, when the weather was warm, and Hardwork Movement filled the XPN Fest Marina Stage with their sunny, vibrant energy? Life seemed pretty good back then. But even now, in the dead of winter, things aren’t looking that bad — it’s 2018, the Eagles won the Super Bowl, and, conveniently, Hardwork Movement was here to help us celebrate.

And celebrate they did. Those who survived Thursday’s parade and were looking to keep the party going came to the right place this afternoon, because Hardwork Movement, still jazzed from the city’s big win, brought all the Philly spirit we could ask for right here to the World Cafe Live stage — and Hardwork Movement is a group that knows how to fill a stage. Nine members strong, their presence is magnetic, and managed to turn a quiet morning audience into a dance party by the end of their set. Continue reading →


Free at Noon Flashback: Kississippi brings bedroom pop to the big stage Friday afternoon

Kississippi | photo by Ashley Gellman-LaLima for WXPN

Philadelphia-based indie pop band Kississippi, under the guidance of fearless leader Zoë Reynolds, took the stage for a twinkling midday set Friday ahead of an eventful weekend here in Philadelphia. Most known to pack houses and basements, the band was caught off guard at the size of the WCL midday crowd. Kississippi ripped through their set, nonetheless, and gratefully appreciated the turnout by the mass of Midnight Green-clad fans. Continue reading →


Free at Noon Flashback: Sunflower Bean discovers afternoon rock at World Cafe Live

Sunflower Bean | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

It’s official, the consensus is in: afternoon rock shows are the best. Of course, the Free at Noon crowd has always known that, but it’s great to hear that Sunflower Bean agrees. When the band took the World Cafe Live stage this afternoon ahead of their sold-out show tonight at Everybody Hits, their surprise at the size and enthusiasm of the crowd was palpable. After kicking off their set with “Easier Said,” lead singer and bassist Julia Cumming wondered aloud, “Don’t you guys have anywhere to be?” The audience’s response — that they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else — was all the affirmation Sunflower Bean needed to pour a wild amount of infectious energy into their set. Continue reading →


Free at Noon Flashback: Ben Arnold and the 48 Hour Orchestra break through the clouds with soulful jams

Ben Arnold | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

To kick off 2018 and the 13th year of WXPN’s Free at Noon concert series, long-time friend Ben Arnold, who is no stranger to World Cafe Live’s stage, performed a sleek and soulful set despite the abysmal weather currently inhabiting Philadelphia. Appearing in the Free at Noon series in its first year as a trio, the Philly-native returned with a backing band 10 members deep this time around. Dubbed “The 48 Hour Orchestra,” the band provided a spirited brass section, punchy drums assisted by congas, and heartfelt backing vocals to the set. Continue reading →


Free At Noon Flashback: Slowey and the Boats says “Mele Kalikimaka” to a festive World Cafe Live crowd

Slowey and the Boats | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Philadelphia-based Hawaiian-inspired combo Slowey and the Boats took the World Cafe Live stage today, bringing seasons’ greetings and Christmas kitsch to the Free at Noon faithful.

Leading the band behind a light-up banner emblazoned with their name, steel guitar player Isaac Stanford smoothly plucked out the vocal melodies to instrumental renditions of holiday favorites like “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas,” “White Christmas” and more. Joining him were Mike Hlatky on bass, Mike Pietrusko on drums, Nate Skiles on guitar and David Streim on Wurlitzer.   Continue reading →


Free at Noon Flashback: Cherry fills World Cafe Live with its sunny sounds

Cherry | photo by Liz Waldie for WXPN

The winter weather is finally setting in. My coffee got so cold during my 15-minute walk to XPN HQ this morning that I had to stop for another coffee. And with snow in the forecast this weekend, it’s hard to fight the instinct to wrap up in a blanket and never move.

Cherry, however, came to Free at Noon prepared to fight off the cold with their laid-back, fuzzed-out, and all-around beachy and chill vibes. The band was up first for today’s Free at Noon doubleheader, bringing with them the relaxed vibes of their new LP Dumbness. Their set, though short, eased the crowd into a vibrant afternoon of Philly tunes, which included fellow members of the Lame-O Records family Slaughter Beach, Dog — it was the perfect way to take shelter from the winter winds.

The World Cafe Live stage isn’t Cherry’s usual scene, though. Continue reading →


Free at Noon Flashback: The Lone Bellow exudes togetherness in an exuberant World Cafe Live set

The Lone Bellow | photo by Liz Waldie for WXPN

Fall — at least for me — is time for sad folk music. As leaves are painted warmer, and breezes are swept colder, that somber sweet-spot of brittle-strummed melancholy whispers endlessly from my earbuds. And as these songs are often paired with hopeless, dismal lyrics, this seasonal soundtrack tends to be more than a little depressing.

Enter: The Lone Bellow’s exuberantly optimistic vein of folk, which will have none of this dispirited business. Though in no way strangers to feelings of pain and devastation, members Zach Williams, Brian Elmquist, and Kanene Donehy Pipkin have an infectious ability to channel their wounds into earnest hopefulness.

The result is a sound that lets you wallow — but only if we’re all wallowing together in unison. A sound that says yes, life is very often the absolute worst, and don’t worry, we are going to croak out the intense heartache of it all. But we are also going to yell and shout and stomp and clap up a storm of unbridled joy.

All of which these moods were summed up immediately at today’s sold out Free at Noon, as the trio opened their acoustic set by belting the bluesy prayer, “Is It Ever Gonna Be Easy,” off their newest album, Walk Into a Storm. Continue reading →